Are Parades, BBQ, And Pesticides On Your Schedule This Weekend?
If you are like many homeowners, your Memorial Day weekend involves parades, BBQ, and lawn care. You might have started your weeding and fertilizing efforts weeks ago, but if not, the three day weekend is a good opportunity to get the lawn in shape through hard work and chemicals. Unfortunately, this springtime ritual of using pesticides has many downsides.
Problems With Pesticides
Your lawn cannot absorb all the chemical input, so 40 to 60% of the nitrogen in the product runs off in surface water or ultimately leaches into the ground. You can do the math, but Americans apply million tons of fertilizer and 70 to 90,000,000 tons of pesticides to their lawns each year, which means widespread exposure to chemicals.
While some people are very sensitive to these chemicals and develop allergic reactions to them, most of us absorb the chemicals into our body with uncertain effects. Studies done by BeyondPesticides.org have shown high rates of asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems among farmers use large quantities of pesticides, households who frequently use insecticides, and among children exposed to herbicides before their first birthday.
There is growing evidence that pesticides are harmful to wildlife. Honeybees are dying off while 60 to 70,000,000 birds in the U.S. die each year from pesticide poisoning. What makes the problem even worse is that besides the run off into land and water, pesticides are over applied, applied to adjacent areas where pesticides are not needed, can impact people, wildlife, and air quality far from the source.
Few Pesticide Bans In Place, So Take Care
While some pesticides have been banned in the United States by the EPA, there are plenty of toxic chemicals that are still available for lawn care. This is in strict contrast to Canada where certain provinces have banned pesticides used for lawns and ornamental garden. A few cities in the US have taken up the gauntlet to follow suit, but lawn care chemical bans are not widespread.
As this time, Louisville has no ban, although the government has materials on the website to educate consumers about pesticide risks and offer suggestions for "greener" lawn care.
Give the risk that pesticides pose, to the environment, to wildlife and potentially to people, it makes good sense to think about alternatives to pesticides that you use and to exercise great care when around pesticides.
- Consider organic alternatives to pesticides. Natural products such as soaps, corn gluten, and vinegar can kill pesticide weeds. The Jefferson County extension can offer you suggestions about what can handle one problems that you have.
- When you apply pesticides, dress properly in protective clothing such as gloves, long pants and a mask. When you come indoors afterwards, leave your shoes at the door and separately wash your clothes as soon as you can.
- Just apply pesticides to affected areas instead of to your whole lawn as a "prophylactic measure." This action will limit the amount of pesticides to impact the soil air and water.
- Keep kids and pets off the lawn for at least as long as the pesticide manufacturer suggests.
- Do what you can to keep your lawn healthy so there is less need for pesticides. Test your soil pH to determine the best fertilizers to use. When you buy them, look for time released or natural organic products that will be gradually absorbed into your lawn.
Go Organic And Take Action
If you have concerns about the impact of pesticides, contact the city to make your voice known. Considering that Louisville is concerned about air pollution, fitness and exercise, and eating healthier local food, it might be time to take the next step and regulate pesticides in use in the city.